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Spiritual power! What images and hopes that brings before the believer's mind! And rightly it should, for spiritual power is a proper longing for God's people to have.
However Christians may differ on the means to spiritual power, all agree that it relates to the work of the Holy Spirit. Understanding the ministry of the Holy Spirit, therefore, should be important to the believer. A Christian is one who has received Jesus Christ; a spiritual Christian is one who displays Christ living through his life, and this is accomplished by the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Spirituality, then, is Christlikeness that is produced by the fruit of the Spirit. What better portrait of Jesus Christ is there than "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22–23)? These characteristics describe the fruit of the Spirit, and they picture our Lord. Spiritual power is not necessarily or usually the miraculous or spectacular, but rather the consistent exhibition of the characteristics of the Lord Jesus in the believer's life. And this is the activity of the Holy Spirit, of whom the Lord Jesus said, "He shall glorify Me."
An understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is basic to Christian living. But one cannot fully comprehend the work of a person without also knowing something about that person. Likewise it is necessary to know something about the person of the Holy Spirit in order to fully appreciate His work. It may seem dull to the reader to pursue the study of the Spirit's personality and deity; but who He is is foundational to what He does, and a knowledge of both His person and work is basic to Christian devotion and living.
No other group among the totality of the people of God has ever been the beneficiary of so many of the ministries of the Spirit as has the body of Christ which began on the day of Pentecost. For example, the permanent indwelling of every believer by the Holy Spirit was not experienced before that day. His work of joining believers to the risen Christ was impossible before the resurrection of Christ and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost. His teaching ministry, His comfort, and His intercession are benefits that all Christians may experience without restriction or limitation today. This is truly the age of the Spirit, and none of the people of God have been so greatly privileged as are Christians in this age.
Paul wrote only one circular letter to a group of churches, and that was Ephesians, which was sent to all the churches in Asia Minor. It is interesting to notice how frequently he mentions various ministries of the Holy Spirit in this letter. It is as if the Spirit were a wide-spectrum antibiotic for the ills of people in those churches. Paul reminded those who might lack assurance of their salvation that the Spirit had sealed them and that His presence in their lives was the earnest, or guarantee, of the everlasting character of their redemption (Ephesians 1:13–14). If God has put His own seal of ownership upon us in the person of His Spirit, then nothing can make our redemption more secure. The seemingly impossible work of uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body was accomplished by the Spirit, and this union brings with it an access or introduction into the very presence of the Father (Ephesians 2:18). Paul assures those who need the strength to let Christ reign in their lives that the Holy Spirit will provide that ability (Ephesians 3:16), and when He does, they can begin to understand the dimensions of the love of Christ.
The practical and important problem of relationships to other believers is to be guided and guarded by the principle of "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God are the bases for this unity. Sin causes disunity and discord, and one of the gravest sins is the misuse of the tongue; so Paul reminded his readers that useless speech (to say nothing of sinful speech) grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:29–31). The Spirit's presence in our lives should set a guard over our tongues.
The offensive weapons in the believer's armor are the sword of the Spirit and prayer in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17–18). The way to spiritual power is to be filled with the Spirit, which simply means to be controlled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). The Holy Spirit in the individual life and in the corporate life of the church is obviously a principal theme of this circular letter we call Ephesians.
The solution to the problems of the church today lies in solving the problems of individual Christians, and the remedy is a person—the Holy Spirit. He is the antidote for every error, the power for every weakness, the victory for every defeat, the supply for every need, and the answer for every question. And He is available to every believer, for He lives in each believer's heart and life. The answers and the power have already been given to us in the person of the Spirit who lives in each of us.
A few summers ago I was about to leave home for three consecutive weeks of camps and conferences when I came down with laryngitis. In desperation I went to the doctor, seeking some miracle cure that would enable me to keep all the speaking commitments involved in those three weeks. My doctor simply told me to go home, go to bed, and drink large quantities of liquid. But this did not satisfy me. I thought he really wasn't doing his job well because he had not prescribed some wonder drug. At my insistence he at last did give me some very expensive and (in my mind) supposedly miraculously powerful pills. Nevertheless, he insisted that rest and forcing of fluids would do more than the medicine.
But I really did not believe him. At least I did not act like it, for I faithfully took the pills every four hours to the minute. But the only extra water I drank was that which was required to help swallow the pills. So every four hours I had two extra swallows of water. And I kept to my regular schedule instead of taking any extra rest. Somehow I did recover, but it was in spite of my conduct, not because of it.
If this were a book that offered you some new, miraculous, or secret formula for spiritual power, I am sure the sales of it would be phenomenal. You would probably devour its contents at one sitting. This is not that kind of book, however, for there is no new and startling formula for spiritual power. There can be nothing new or more to be added to that which God has already provided in the person of His Holy Spirit who lives in us. He is as available as water; there is no need for additional expensive pills, formulas, "secrets," or programs.
But the pity is that most Christians act as I did when I had laryngitis. We look for the new, the "miraculous," the guaranteed formula, the latest seminar, and we completely overlook the water that is freely available. We flock to the preacher or seminar leader who has some new secret for victory, and we ignore the Holy Spirit who has been freely given to us and who wants to overflow our lives. We do not need to have more of Him, but we do desperately need to know more of Him, and with the increased knowledge will come added faith, power, and control in our lives. To learn takes time. Not only, then, is there no secret formula; there is no instant spiritual maturity and power.
I hope this study of the Spirit will help you to learn more of Him and result in complete and constant yieldedness to His control, and full experience of His many ministries, to the end that the living Lord Jesus Christ will be exhibited in your life. When this is done, then we can know that we have learned well the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.CHAPTER 2
HE OR IT? THE PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The truth of the personality (He, not it) of the Holy Spirit is of fundamental importance. To deny it is to deny His real existence, the existence of the Trinity, and the teaching of the Scriptures on the subject. Nevertheless, His personality has been denied throughout the ages, first by the Monarchians, the Arians (Arius called Him the "exerted energy of God"), and the Socinians in the days of the Reformation.
In more recent times His personality has been denied by Schleiermacher, Ritschl, the Unitarians, liberals, and by almost all neoorthodox theologians (see chapter 22 on history). Often those who deny His distinct personality substitute the word personification for personality, but that term does not have the same meaning in their teaching as personality does in orthodox doctrine.
THE REASONS FOR THE TRUTH OF PERSONALITY
The Holy Spirit Has the Attributes of Personality
If personality may be simply described as possessing intellect, emotions (or sensibility), and will, then it is easily demonstrated that the Holy Spirit has personality because He has intelligence, emotions, and a will.
Intellect. The Holy Spirit knows and searches the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10–11; compare Isaiah 11:2; Ephesians 1:17). He is said to possess a mind (Romans 8:27) and to be able to teach people (1 Corinthians 2:13). All these activities stem from and involve intelligence.
Emotions, or sensibility. The fact that the Scriptures show that the Holy Spirit has feelings is a further proof of His personality. For instance, it is said that the Spirit can be grieved by the sinful actions of believers (Ephesians 4:30: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption"), a fact that would be meaningless if He were not a person (for an influence cannot be grieved). In another place Paul bases an exhortation to the believers in Rome to pray with and for him on the "love of the Spirit" (Romans 15:30).
Will. The important ministry of distributing spiritual gifts to individual believers is said to be according to the will of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11). Too, His will is seen in His ability to direct the activities of God's servants. This is well illustrated by the Spirit's leading Paul at Mysia and Troas. He forbade Paul to preach in Asia and Bithynia, and then He led him and his party to Europe through the vision of the man of Macedonia (Acts 16:6–12).
In addition to these particulars, the entire doctrine of the deity of the Spirit is further proof of His personality (as explained in chapter 3).
The Holy Spirit Performs the Actions of Personality
Actions are attributed to the Holy Spirit that cannot be attributed to a mere thing or influence or personification or power or emanation. Such actions, then, must be those of a person, thus proving personality of the Spirit.
The Spirit teaches. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" (John 14:26).
The Spirit testifies or witnesses. "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me" (John 15:26). "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16).
The Spirit guides. "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14).
The Spirit convicts or convinces. "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:7–8).
The Spirit restrains. "Then the Lord said, 'My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years'" (Genesis 6:3).
The Spirit commands and directs people. "Then the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go up and join this chariot'" (Acts 8:29).
The Spirit performs miracles. "When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39).
The Spirit calls for special service. "While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'" (Acts 13:2).
The Spirit sends forth into Christian service. "So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus" (Acts 13:4).
The Spirit intercedes. "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26).
Granted, some of these actions can be performed by inanimate or impersonal objects. For example, a book can teach. A plaque can testify. A map can guide. But behind such impersonal objects are the persons who were involved in creating the impersonal or inanimate objects. These examples are, therefore, legitimate evidences for the personality of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit Receives the Ascriptions of Personality
Certain acts are performed toward the Holy Spirit that would be most incongruous if He did not possess true personality.
The Spirit can be obeyed. "While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings; for I have sent them Myself.' Peter went down to the men" (Acts 10:19–21a).
The Spirit can be lied to. "But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?'" (Acts 5:3).
The Spirit can be resisted. "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did" (Acts 7:51).
The Spirit can be grieved. "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).
The Spirit can be reverenced. "Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:11).
The Spirit can be blasphemed. "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven" (Matthew 12:31).
The Spirit can be outraged. "How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:29).
As stated, to act in these various ways toward an influence would be unheard of. These acts therefore ascribe personality to the One toward whom they are performed—the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit Contradicts the Accidence of Personality
Here accidence refers to the rudiments of grammar. The Greek word for "spirit" is pneuma (from which we derive English words that have to do with air, such as pneumatic and pneumonia) and is a neuter gender word. According to every normal rule of grammar, any pronoun that would be substituted for this neuter noun would itself have to be neuter. However, in several places the biblical writers did not follow this normal rule of grammar, and instead of using a neuter pronoun when referring to the neuter noun pneuma, they deliberately contradicted the grammatical rule and used masculine pronouns. Indeed, they used two different kinds of pronouns, all in the masculine gender. This shows that they considered the Spirit to be a person and not merely a thing.
John 16:13–14. In this passage the masculine demonstrative pronoun is used for pneuma. (Demonstrative pronouns are the words this and that.) The same demonstrative pronoun is found twice in these verses: once in verse 13 ("But when He") and once in verse 14 ("He will glorify Me"). In these last two instances, instead of the translation "He," the better translation would be "that one."
John 15:26. Here the masculine demonstrative pronoun occurs referring to the Spirit. Some explain the gender of the pronoun as referring back to the masculine word Helper. However, this is less likely, since Spirit is the nearer antecedent.
Excerpted from The Holy Spirit by Charles C. Ryrie. Copyright © 1997 Charles Caldwell Ryrie. Excerpted by permission of Moody Press.
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